I Deserved That Ribbon

Wild 194

Why didn’t I win

“If you’ve ever been rejected (grad school, an article submission, a job) you may have spent some time analyzing the rejection letter itself, reading between the lines, trying to figure out why you were actually rejected.

“The thing is, there’s almost nothing written between lines.”*

Seth Godin’s observation could be applied to Toastmasters speech contests – “My speech was the best one, everyone said so. Why didn’t I win?”

“Was it my jacket? Did the judges miss my humor? Were the judges (unduly) influenced by the screamers that the winning contestant brought with her?”

“The thing is, there’s almost nothing written between lines.”

More importantly, it doesn’t matter.

If the goal is first place and a ticket to the International Contest, only one of many, many aspirants will be successful. If the goal is to learn to better present a speech, under pressure, in unfamiliar circumstances, most contestants will succeed.

Lance Miller, TM World Champion speaker, competed repeatedly in International Speech contests – and didn’t win.** He may have given the best speech several times. But he didn’t convince the judges.

As Seth Godin noted, “The hard part is choosing to be in that sort of situation in the first place, the uncomfortable one where we have no choice but to do better work.”***

Miller chose the hard way again – and again. Each time he competed he learned more about himself, his strengths and weaknesses. And he increased his reserve of courage.

How about a club meeting where we give the best speech – or Table Topics presentation, or evaluation — but the ribbon goes to someone else? Is that failure?

It’s our choice. The question to ask is, “what can I do better next time?” The question isn’t “why didn’t they vote for me?” The first question leads to growth, increased confidence and more skill. The second question triggers resentment and an “I’m a victim” attitude. And, it’s irrelevant.

The Toastmasters program offers us a lot of instruction, information, and insight but we have to do the “heavy lifting” ourselves, even when we feel discouraged or cheated.

“The thing is, there’s almost nothing written between lines.”


*Reading Between the Lines,   http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/03/reading-between-the-lines.html

**Lance Miller, “I competed and lost for 13 years before winning the World Championship.

“I learned more from the speech contests that I lost than I ever learned from speech contests that I won. I would never go back and win a contest and lose the lesson.

“The audience would not allow me to go forward until I corrected specific aspects of my attitude and my speaking.”

***Galvanized, http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2016/03/galvanized.html


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